To Fast–Or Not
Sara: Each year, I look forward to celebrating the season of Lent. While it’s hard, I enjoy the opportunity to get closer to God through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. This year, however, I knew it was going to be different.
As we approached Ash Wednesday, I consulted with a priest regarding what the Church asked me to do regarding abstaining from meat and fasting. I believed that at one time I had heard or read that pregnant women were not required to fast, but I wanted to follow what the Church asked and not “wimp out” simply because I’m pregnant. When I asked the priest, he told me that I was required to fast “unless I would faint or something” if I didn’t. At first, I accepted his words because I knew this priest wouldn’t intentionally steer me wrong.
Later, I realized fasting would be impossible for me. These days, I typically eat once an hour (or more) but not very much at any given time. So I decided to seek counsel from others. I asked other Catholic moms via my Facebook status what they did while they were pregnant. Every single woman who responded said they didn’t fast while pregnant. They were pointing out some online sources that discussed this. I even had another priest respond and tell me it wasn’t necessary to fast.
However, it was still difficult for me, as I tried to seek counsel and inform my conscience. I didn’t feel it was right to “hand-pick” which priest I listened to based upon whose answer I liked better.
After further reflection, I determined it would truly be impossible for me to fast from food. So I decided not to listen to the radio on my 45 minute commute each way. The silence was deafening (and my trip seemed to take at least twice as long), but I felt it important to make a hard sacrifice as I continued to eat throughout the day.
Later, I spoke with someone who was present when I had this discussion with the priest, and apparently I misunderstood his words. Father had said if it was medically necessary, for example if I was going to faint, it was ok not to fast. However, I wish Father would have made that a little clearer to me! I was most frustrated because I was trying to do the right thing, and I couldn’t easily determine what that was. At a later date, I did find on the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) website that pregnancy was an acceptable reason not to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.
This whole experience taught me that while I need to seek counsel, it’s also important to follow what I know is best for me and my baby. In many instances the Church, in her infinite wisdom, gives us the ability to discern what is healthy for ourselves. I need to accept her guidance in these matters.
Justin: “With great power comes great responsibility!”—- from the Spiderman comics
The conscience (when properly formed) is a great gift from God. The catechism teaches that “His conscience is man’s most secret core and his sanctuary. There he is alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths” (CCC 1778).
The conscience is a place where we communicate with God. In it lays our freedom and our peace of heart. But we have a responsibility to “form” our conscience through an intimate dialogue with God and by studying our faith.
It is very important to know that we can trust in our consciences, but we must also never forget that we must diligently seek to “form” them as well.
I appreciate how seriously Sara takes the obligation to form her conscience. It would have been easy for her to not fast on Ash Wednesday. After all, she had a great excuse. Yet she is never afraid to ask a question just because she may or may not like the answer.